Jonathan Lyon: »Nocebo«

Jonathan Lyon: »Nocebo«

Zum Digital Essay


World War Three was starting.
No one knew except for me.
My fever made me feel unreal.
I needed a cure for my fever.
I needed a cure for the war.

I was in the middle of a meadow.
A boy was in the meadow too.
I could not see the boy’s face.
But the boy was walking towards me.
Across the middle of the meadow.

Suddenly a man attacked the boy.
In the middle of the meadow.
Maybe this was part of the war.
Or maybe this was part of my fever.
But I ran towards the man.

I pulled the man away from the boy.
‘This your boyfriend?’ The man shouted.
And the man punched the boy.
And the boy fell away from me.
But I could see the boy’s face clearly now.

World War Three had started.
My fever made me feel unreal.
But I could see the boy’s clearly face now.
The falling boy’s face was beautiful.
So beautiful that it felt like a cure.


I watched the boy falling.
Across the middle of the meadow.
And I felt like I had watched the boy falling before.
Across the middle of other meadows. In dreams.
The falling boy was unconscious.
But the boy’s foot was trapped under the man’s boot.
The boy hit the ground.
The boy’s leg bone cracked.
The boy’s leg bone was broken.
But the boy did not wake up.

The man stepped back from the boy.
The man looked younger now.
‘Stupid drunk chavs.’ The man said. ‘You shouldn’t have attacked me.’
‘I don’t know who he is.’ I said.
The man pushed me to the ground.
The fever made the meadow tilt.
I could not stand back up.

‚Oi!‘ A woman shouted.
A woman was coming towards us. Across the meadow.
The man smiled. The man was not afraid of the woman.
‚You’ve never seen this boy before?‘ The man asked.
I shook my head no.
‘So you’re the new boy then?‘ The man asked.
I nodded my head yes.
The sky was sprouting bluebells. Behind the man. Like the bluebells of the forests of Silesia.
‘Why did you protect him?’ The man asked. ‘You’re not on his team.’
I did not reply.
The man laughed.
‘I thought he was you.’ The man said.
The bluebells in the sky matched the colour of the man’s eyes.
The bluebells in the sky matched the undertone of the man’s skin.
I looked away.
The man lifted his boot over my face.
‘You’re at Eton College now.’ The man said. ‘And I’m your house captain.’
The house captain raked his boot down my arm.
The stones in his boot cut open my skin.
‘So you’re on my team now.’ The house captain said. ‘Understood?’
The house captain ran away.

I wanted to vomit.
My arm was bleeding.
The bluebells in the sky were melting.
My fever made me feel unreal.
But violence was familiar to me.
At least I had found something familiar to me. In this foreign country.
And at least I had fallen beside the fallen boy.
I did not want to be on the house captain’s team.
I wanted to be on the fallen boy’s team.
I wanted a cure for my fever.
I wanted a cure for the war.
I wanted to wake the fallen boy up.


I turned to face the fallen boy.
The fallen boy’s face was against my face.
The fallen boy’s face was beautiful.
The boy was my age. Sixteen. Maybe.
The boy’s eyes were closed. The boy’s nose was bleeding.
The boy had black hair. Acne. Puffy lips. Sunburn.
I thought of a cabin boy. On a ship. With a knife in his mouth. As waves moved beneath us.
And then a wave was moving over us. Now. Here.
The wave was forcing the fever out of my head.
The wave was a plane. Too loud. Too low.
The plane was about to crash-land into the meadow. Onto us.
I moved my body over the boy. To protect him from the plane.
And the boy started choking on his blood.

I tried to turn the boy onto his side. With energy I did not have.
My arm was bleeding. The boy’s nose was bleeding.
My blood was mixing with the boy’s blood. My hand was pulling on the boy’s hand.
And something in me was starting to open.
Because of the boy’s blood. In my blood. Because of the boy’s hand. In my hand.
Something in me was starting to open.
My fever was opening my senses. Into each other.
The sound of the plane was opening into a texture. The texture of honey.
The pain in my arm was opening into a scent. The scent of orange blossom.
And the scent was stronger when I looked at the boy.

The boy stopped choking.
I moved my body off the boy.
The boy had opened something in me.
And now the perfume of orange blossom filled my mind.
I vomited into the meadow. I vomited away from the boy.
The sky was the colour of honey. The plane was gone.
I looked back at the boy.
The boy had opened something in me.
The boy was gone.


A woman was at my side.
‘What in the bleeding hell happened here?’ The woman asked.
The woman had a Northern English accent.
‘Can you stand?’ The woman asked. ‘Come on duck. Lean against Pat.‘
Pat helped me stand up.
‘There was a boy.’ I said.
Pat led me across the meadow.
‘The boy opened my fever.’ I said. ‘Our blood mixed. Then my senses mixed.’
There was a church ahead of us.
Pat pushed me forwards. Into the church.
Two men were in front of us. They were carrying the boy.
‘That’s the boy!’ I said. ‘He’s got orange blossom inside him.’
The boy was being put on a bed with wheels.
‘Yes duck.’ Pat said. ‘He’ll be seen by the doctor for the queen.‘
I tried to go to the boy. Pat held me back.
The boy was taken through a door.
The perfume of orange blossom filled my mind.

‚You’re boiling.’ Pat said.
‚I’m cold.‘ I said.
Pat took me to a bedroom.
‘Sit down.’ Pat said. ‘We’ll wait for the nurse together.’
‘What is this place?’ I asked.
‘The San.’ Pat said. ‘A sanitorium.’
‘But…’ I said.
‘It used to be a church.’ Pat said.
I closed my eyes.
‘Will it always be like this?’ I asked.
‘Will what always be like what?’ Pat asked.
‘England.’ I said. ‘Eton. Will it always be this… unreal?’
Pat laughed. Pat had a smoker’s laugh.
‘So you’re the new boy then duck?‘ Pat asked.
‘I just got here from the airport.’ I said. ‘I’m at South Lawn boarding house.’
‘That’s right duck.’ Pat said. ‘I work at South Lawn.‘
‘They sent me across the meadow.’ I said. ‘To find the doctor. For my fever. But the house captain attacked a boy. In front of me. There’s a war. In the sky.’
Pat said something then. But I could not hear.
The colour was fading out of her.
And I was fading out with it.
I was fading into a colour outside of colour. I was fading into a taste outside of a taste.
I was fading into the pain of a perfume. The pain of the perfume of the orange blossom boy.


I woke.
A nurse was beside me. Orbiting my headache. Her clothes were made of midnight.
‚How’s the boy who came in with me?‘ I asked.
‚We’ve rang around.’ The nurse said. ‘Nobody claimed him. Maybe he’s not from Eton.‘
‘He’s… from Eton.’ I said. ‘I think. But he’s not from my boarding house. What’s wrong with him?‘
‘That’s private my darling.‘ The nurse said.
‘But he passed out from one punch.’ I said. ‘I was holding him. In my arms. He couldn’t wake up.’
The nurse’s smile seemed to know more about me than I did.
I fell back into the fever.
I woke up in Germany.
My brain had metal teeth.
I turned on the light.
I was in England again.
There were codeine pills on my bedside. I swallowed them.
Then there was a crash outside my door.
A male voice cursed.
And the night changed colour. Changed scent. Changed texture.
It was the voice of the orange blossom boy.
I had not heard his voice before. I knew it was his voice.
I forced the fever to let me stand.
My mind flushed downwards.
I left my room.
The boy was in front of me. Close enough to touch.
The boy was propped up on crutches. In a paper gown.
The boy was lit by the moon. Through the stained-glass windows.
The boy stared at me. With opiate eyes. I stared at the boy. With opiate eyes.
The perfume of orange blossom filled my mind.
The boy was shorter than me. The boy’s nose was bound in gauze.
My mouth was level with his forehead. I could step into him. I could kiss his forehead.
My mouth could not move. My feet could not move.
I wanted the boy to speak.
The boy laughed instead.
And his laugh sounded like the start of my life.



Jonathan Lyon was born in London, and moved to Berlin in 2013. His debut novel, »Carnivore«, was published in 2017. His short stories have been published in UK and Germany. He also writes films.der Sowjetunion geflohen sind, und die ihrer Nachfahren heute.